The 5 Best Self-Learning Smart Home Devices

Self-learning home devices learn your habits and adjust themselves accordingly for an unprecedented level of convenience.

Guest post by Jon Snyder

Picture this: You’ve had an exhausting week — all you want to do is go home and relax. It’s hot outside, but you arrive to a perfectly cooled home. As dusk rolls in, your blinds follow suit, as if they’re chasing the sunset. You make your way to your bedroom and practically crumble into bed. The lights dim as the temperature dips and you drift off into a peaceful sleep.

This might sound like a futuristic dream, but actually, it’s a reality. In today’s world, millions of smart gadgets are available to make your home more intelligent. But these “smart” devices are limited to homeowner’s programming capabilities, which is usually turning on and off at certain times. Genius? Not so much. Self-learning home devices are different. They learn your habits and adjust themselves accordingly for an unprecedented level of convenience.  Here, we’ll take a look at some of the best connected devices and the ways they can observe patterns, interpret data, or use artificial intelligence to help make your life easier.

  1. Self-Learning Thermostats

Keeping your house at an ideal temperate can be pricey. About 50 percent of your energy bill can be attributed to running the heat or air conditioning. A manual thermostat can be programmed to adjust temps at certain times but if you leave for vacation and forget to turn it off, you’re out of luck.

Smart thermostats are a game-changer. They can learn your favorite temp and make sure you’re never too hot or too cold. If you’ve cranked the AC a few days in a row, your thermostat will pick up on this pattern and adjust the temperature settings accordingly. And when you leave for work or a week-long vacation, sensors and GPS will alert your thermostat to automatically save energy (and money).

2.    Self-Learning Blinds

There’s nothing worse than being woken up at the crack of dawn on a weekend to sun beams hitting you square in the face. Or the opposite — you can’t seem to roll out of bed because the room is so dark that it must still be nighttime, right?

Smart blinds can help address both of these issues. The latest intelligent shades connect to your compatible smart-home systems and adjust themselves automatically. Simply program your shades to move your window treatments to your preference. And to take it one step further, some smart blinds can follow the sun to maintain the same level of light as the season’s change, which saves energy and money (without any effort on your part).

3.    Self-Learning Beds

Even your bed can have brainpower. Tech-savvy mattresses covers sync up with your thermostat and bedroom lighting for a full sensory experience. As you begin to snooze, the temperature and lights of your room and bed adjust to your preference. When you doze off completely, they adjust again or turn off completely. These self-learning mattress protectors can also track your sleep patterns and help you achieve your best night’s rest.

4.    Self-Learning Surveillance

Being able to keep an eye on your home while you are away is the ultimate peace of mind, as one in 36 homes are burglarized each year. Smart surveillance systems employ innovative learning technology like facial recognition to keep your home safe from unfamiliar faces. Some cameras also have self-learning video analytics, which automatically adjust their settings based on the scene conditions to give you the clearest view possible. Plus, they connect to Wi-Fi for 24/7 footage, pinged right to your smartphone from anywhere with internet.

5.    Self-Learning Spectrometer  

This might not seem like an everyday item, but smart food spectrometers are making waves in the kitchen. This tool interprets algorithms to understand food freshness, sweetness and quality. In real-time, it can determine if your meat has gone bad, if your whiskey is the real deal or if that farmer’s market fruit is fresh.

Bonus: Self-Learning Home Controller

As seen at the 2018 Consumer Electronic Show, a self-learning home controller takes your smart home gadgets and make them smarter. It uses artificial intelligence to understand your home patterns, picking up data from your smart appliances, lighting and electricity. It automates mundane tasks without scheduling or hassle to better manage your home and save money. Although it’s not available for purchase yet, this home controller could help smart gadgets reach their full potential.

 

As smart home gadgets continue to get smarter and learn on their own, it’ll be fascinating to see how they will predict our behavior to save energy, slash bills, and most importantly, make our lives better.

Perhaps one day, there will be no snoozing through alarms (your phone will know to wake you up), no burnt banana bread (your oven will know it’s fully baked), and no parties after midnight (your lights know bedtime is at 10PM). But hopefully these self-learning devices will learn that sometimes humans like to break the rules.

 

Jon Snyder is a Product Manager at Esurance, where he oversees countrywide design of property insurance products. Jon has over 25 years of experience in the insurance industry and he writes about a variety of topics, including smart home technology, homeowners insurance and the intersection of the two. You can learn more about Esurance’s homeowners insurance options by visiting their website

What is a Property Survey and Why You Should Get One Before Buying a House

There are several benefits to getting a property survey before buying your home. Find out all the information you need to know, and how you can get a property survey done today!

When buying a home, the last thing you want is a surprise. Most people worry about leaky roofs or rusty boilers. But there may be property issues that can come to light and cost you a lot of money if you’re not careful.

One way to avoid getting in over your head is to get a property survey before you buy. Also known as a house or land survey, it’s the perfect way to ensure you know exactly what you’re getting with the land, so there are no surprises.

How exactly do you go about getting a property survey if the seller doesn’t have one to share?  You can start by looking for one from the district or municipal office where the property is located in or possibly even the seller’s lending institution.  If you can’t find one, then you should take the following information into consideration:

Property Survey Basics

A property survey begins with defining the boundaries of a plot of land. This clarifies the size of the property, and where the land begins and ends.

An updated house survey is also important for legal reasons. This is because municipal laws are not fixed—they change from time to time. For example, the property might have a shed or a fence that was well within the boundaries years ago but after undated municipal border it now encroaches onto a neighbor’s property or too close to the public street. A new survey will give you the confidence that the property complies with current local regulations.

It can also highlight any potential discrepancies or boundary infringements. This can help you avoid any misunderstandings in the future with neighbors or the city.

What do Surveyors Look for in a House Survey?

You might have seen surveyors poking around your neighborhood taking measurements. Most of the time, they have been hired by home buyers or sellers to take surveys, or they could be performing a survey for a property dispute (something a survey can help you avoid!)

When you hire a surveyor here’s what they typically look for:

  • The legal boundaries of the land
  • The locations of any buildings (sheds, storage) on the land
  • Any easements and entrances to the property
  • The topography of the plot, including both natural features such as trees or a river and manmade features including swimming pools or fences

An updated survey will be compared to any previous survey from the last time the house was sold. This way any discrepancies that might appear are known to all parties before the closing.

How Much Does a House Survey Cost?

When getting a property surveyed it’s important to hire a professional. This is one instance where DIY surveys or estimates won’t help. In fact, it can actually hurt you as they are not accepted as legal documentation.

So hiring a surveyor may be worth it to ensure you have records that hold up in court, if it ever comes to that. House survey costs can vary from state to state, but they typically run anywhere from $250 to $1,000.

Check your local state laws regarding costs. In some states, the seller is responsible for the survey or the fees can be negotiated between both parties.

Should I Have a Home Buyers Survey?

The last thing any homeowner wants is to plan a new project only to find out all that land they thought they had wasn’t theirs after all. You can imagine the headaches that scenario can cause!

Nevertheless, this sort of thing can sometimes happen. One way to avoid these issues is to set up a survey. A buyer’s survey can save you from a lot of potential hassles (and even more costs) down the road.

Your Home’s Honey Do List for May

Before you fire up that grill, here is your home’s honey do list for May which will make summer even more enjoyable.

The tulips are blooming and the yard work is piling up, but all you can dream about is May Long Weekend barbeques. Before you fire up that grill, here is your home’s honey do list for May which will make summer even more enjoyable.

1. Curb Appeal – Because April showers bring May flowers, it’s time to think about your home’s curb appeal. Does your front door need a refresh? Could your outdoor lighting use an update? Does your mailbox need a makeover? Check out these 7 Major League Upgrades to Increase Your Home’s Curb Appeal.

2. Give Mom some Love – Because Home is Where Mom is, consider showing Mom your appreciation this Mother’s Day (May 14th) by giving her one of these unique homemade Mother’s Day gifts. Another welcome gift for every Mom is a helping hand around the house (see #5 on this list)!

3. May is for Mold? – Did those April showers cause water problems in your home? Use this brief guide to mold and moisture to clean up and prevent mold growth in your home.

4. Spring Into Action – Take advantage of the spring weather and get out of the house! See how many items on this list of Free Things to Do Outside the House you can tackle before June.

5. Glass Houses – People who live in glass houses…have a lot of windows to clean! Tackle outdoor windows and doors with a glass cleaner to let plenty of that spring sunlight inside.

6. Inspect for Termites – Termites are more active in the spring and summer months when the air is warm and moist. Check your home for termite damage, paying special attention to anywhere wood meets the ground. Watch this video to learn how you can inspect your home this May.

7. Prep Your Home for Sale – If you’re getting your home ready for sale this spring, there are several items that many home sellers overlook. Do you have a copy of your survey on hand, or have you compiled a list of service providers for a buyer? These 9 often overlooked items when prepping your home for sale can help seal the deal with today’s savvy buyers.

8. Grilling Time – Now you’re ready for that Memorial Day backyard bash. To make sure you never unexpectedly run out of gas in your grill, consider checking out this handy product.

Starting Fresh: How to Buy a New Home Construction

Personalization, customization, fewer repairs, and less maintenance are just some of the benefits of buying a newly built home. Find out how you can buy a new home construction today!

What could be more exciting than living in a brand new home? The blank slate can be thrilling: living in a place no one has lived before, a home with fresh paint, untouched carpets, and even fresh grass that no one has trodden!

While most of the homes bought and sold are preexisting, more and more buyers are interested in new house construction. There’s no doubt moving into a newly built home is exciting. But this sort of transaction comes with its own set of challenges as well.

Find out all the basics of what you’ll need to know to get started.

Understanding the Types of New Construction Homes for Sale

There are a few different types of new construction homes you might consider. They fall into three main categories:

  1. A home that is pre-built according to design templates
  2. A semi-custom home: the bulk of the house is built and you have the option to pick a few design elements, finishes, and extra upgrades
  3. A fully custom home: you have input on the design from the ground up

If you’d love to be involved in every stage of the building process, an entirely custom home could be a great fit. On the other hand, if you’re ready to move right in and don’t want to bother with all the design details, buying a pre-built home is likely the better option.

Select the Specs of Your Home

Now that you know what kind of new house construction you’re interested in, you want to determine some details about the home of your dreams. Here are a few things to consider:

  1. Location: Is it as close to (or far from) the city as you prefer? Will you have a reasonable commute (if that’s a must-have)?
  2. Budget: Will this home fit into your budget—especially if you have the option for upgrades?
  3. Size: Does the home have the size and number of rooms you need?
  4. Neighborhood: Is it still under construction? Do you have ample lawn space or privacy? Are there specific desired amenities such as a swimming pool?

Many new construction homes for sale are in subdivisions. It’s a good idea to drive down and investigate them on your own and see if it has what you’re looking for.

Also, you want to be sure to find out as much as you can about the builder. Start by looking online: search for any reviews, complaints, or lawsuits. This simple step can help you avoid a lot of potential headaches down the road!

Find a Real Estate Agent

Most builders have an agent, but remember that this agent is there with a goal to sell the property. Before you speak with any builders, hire your own real estate agent to make sure your needs and desires are the number one priority.

Another advantage of taking this path is that your agent may have other insights that the builder would not. An agent will know all the unique processes and challenges of how to buy a new construction home better than anyone.

Work with a Lawyer

More often than not, a new construction home will have a more complicated contract than your typical house sale. There are all sorts of details you’ll need to know such information on warranties on the home itself and appliances within the home.

With the amount of paperwork involved in buying a new home, it’s always a good idea to run all the paperwork past a lawyer familiar with real estate language.

Don’t Forget the Home Inspection

Just because the home is a new build doesn’t mean you should skip getting a home inspection. Some new homes can have their own set of problems to watch out for. Insist on getting a comprehensive home inspection before you even begin the price negotiation.

Talk to your real estate agent today to start ironing out all the details of buying a new home.

8 Clever Ways to Store Books Around the House

Here are 8 clever ways to store books around the house. Which one is your favorite?

Guest post by  Michelle Lee, Houzz

Although reading books can seem like a long lost art in the days of digital devices, there still remains something special about the smell of a brand new novel and being able to flip through physical pages. For dedicated bookworms with cherished collections, it can be a struggle to store and display your favorites without a dedicated home library. Follow along for eight ways to stylishly integrate books into any room in the house.

In the Kitchen

This is not just limited to cookbooks. Any books you’ll want to read over a good meal or while waiting for the oven to preheat are just as applicable. There are many ways to add a homey vibe to your space by installing open shelves beneath a kitchen island or along a blank unused wall. Just make sure to keep the books away from appliances so the pages and binding don’t get damaged by heat.

 

In the Bedroom

As we venture further into fall and winter, many bookworms will want to curl up under the covers with a hot cup of cocoa and a new novel. Keep your reading list at arm’s reach by storing books along a windowsill or stack them up in a corner of the room. For a more permanent solution, buy a new headboard or nightstand with built-in storage.

 

In an Unused Fireplace

Fireplaces make a lovely focal point in many living rooms, but can be a hassle to maintain and use. You can breathe new life into this space by cleaning it thoroughly and stacking books in the empty space. The different bindings will create visual interest and bring color to the previously black abyss.

 

In the Bathroom

One of life’s luxuries is being able to read a good book in a relaxing bubble bath at the end of a long day. This can be done by building recessed shelves above a freestanding tub. For renters, there are plenty of budget-friendly over-the-toilet storage cabinets that accomplish the same purpose. Be sure to take proper precautions against warped pages caused by moisture with an exhaust fan.

 

Above a Desk

In many home offices, the space above the desk goes largely unused. Simply look up for more space. You can create a home for a decently sized collection of books by installing open shelves above your computer all the way up to the ceiling. The transitional Philadelphia space shown here illustrates the idea nicely.

 

Under the Stairs

If you still haven’t found the right fit for what to put in that little nook under the stairs, look no further. Bring in an asymmetrical or diagonal bookcase to house your collection or carve out an alcove to recreate a Harry Potter vibe. Bring in a comfy chair or cushions and you’ve got the perfect personal hideout space for the season.

 

Around an Entryway

This one requires the expertise of a skilled woodworker or architect. Frame any doorway in your home with a gorgeous collection of novels that surround it left, right and above. Add a rolling library ladder to reach the highest shelves and bring rustic charm and character to any space, as seen here.

 

In Your Front Yard

If you’re really unable to squeeze any more space out of your home to store books inside, consider moving outdoors for a unique solution. The Little Free Library is a nonprofit organization that seeks to bring communities together and share books with one another through a house-shaped box in their front yard. Fill it with a few of your favorites that you’re willing to share and encourage your neighbors to take one, leave one of their own or both. Although this is not quite a storage solution, it’s a great way to connect with your community and discover new reading material.

8 Vegetables to Grow in Your Garden this Spring

Grab your gardening gear. Here is a round up list of the easiest–and most practical–vegetables to grow in your garden.

As the weather warms, you are no doubt yearning to be outside to get your hands working in the dirt again. If you have never tried gardening, spring is the perfect opportunity to give it a shot and plant your own vegetable garden. Growing your own vegetables is a great way to get some fresh air and exercise, and it also allows you to get the highest possible amount of nutrients from your food. Fresh vegetables are much healthier for you than those bought from the store, as they begin to lose nutritional value the longer they sit on a shelf.

Get your gardening gear out from storage. Here is a round up list of the easiest–and most practical–vegetables to grow in your garden.

1. Tomatoes

If you are new to gardening, tomatoes should absolutely be your first plant to try. Homegrown tomatoes, ripened in the sun, are a delicious addition to any meal. They are high in fiber, iron, magnesium, niacin, potassium, and several vitamins (including A and C). They are also one of the only sources of the beneficial antioxidant lycopene. If you’re just starting out or have limited space, try growing tomatoes in a container on your deck first. Usually, you can get by with just an 18-inch deep container. One plant will yield dozens of tomatoes throughout the season. Just remember that tomatoes like lots of sun and heat, so if you live in a colder area, it may take a little bit longer to get them growing.

2. Beans and Peas

Beans and peas are incredibly easy to grow. Depending on your preferences and your gardening space, you can choose to grow either bush or climbing varieties. Bush beans support themselves, while climbing or “pole” varieties need a stake or trellis to climb up on.

If you’re feeling extra organic, consider planting your beans and peas next to your corn. Beans fix nitrogen in the soil which aids the corn, and also use the stalk as a natural trellis. Both peas and beans are high in fiber, iron, potassium, and a wide range of vitamins. Plus, they continue to produce basket upon basket of delicious vegetables throughout the entire season.

3. Broccoli

Broccoli is a great vegetable to grow as it is one of the most nutritionally dense. It is high in crucial nutrients such as calcium, magnesium, iron, vitamin A, vitamin B6, and vitamin C.

Although broccoli can be grown in containers, it’s just as easy to plant it directly in the ground. It is commonly known as a cold-season crop, so it can withstand a light frost–and actually tastes better after doing so. Meaning, you can plant it when soil temperatures are still a bit chilly in early spring and keep it going long into autumn.

4. Peppers

There are dozens of varieties of peppers you can grow, but most of them are all cultivated in about the same way. Consider bell peppers for your first try at pepper planting. A cool feature of planting bell peppers is that you will have different types of peppers at every growing stage. Harvest them young for crunchy green peppers, or wait a few weeks to allow the sun to further ripen them into delicious red peppers.

Whichever type you choose, peppers are full of nutrients, such as riboflavin and potassium. They can also be planted in pots, but grow best directly in the ground. Like tomatoes, they like lots of heat. Make sure you plant them in a warm, sunny area.

5. Carrots

A word to the wise–if you have rocky or clay soils, consider planting carrots in a raised bed or container. Carrots like fertile, loose soil and need plenty of room to stretch out and extend their roots. Carrots are an icon of healthy eating and are high in vitamins A, B6, and C. Sow carrot seeds about two to three inches apart, and be sure to thin them as they form tops.

6. Leafy Greens

There are dozens of varieties of greens you can plant in your garden. Choose the one that best works for your climate and soil type. Popular varieties that tend to work almost anywhere include spinach and kale. Both are cold-season crops that can be started a bit earlier than other crops, and can be harvested continually throughout the year. As a bonus, once they begin to die back and your harvest dips, you can reseed over the existing plants to produce new, fresh plants. Regardless of the type of greens you plant, these are easy to grow and harvest and contain high amounts of iron, calcium, potassium, and vitamins.

7. Cucumbers

 Make room for at least one cucumber plant in your garden this summer. Cucumber plants produce large quantities, all of which spiral out in spiky vines. They can spread up to twenty-five feet away, so make sure you have plenty of room. Whether you plant pickling or slicing cucumbers, you should plant about five seeds in 6-inch high hills, and then thin to the two strongest plants. These warm-season crops love heat, so consider planting them on top of a layer of black plastic to heat up the soil.

8. Zucchini

The last plant on our list is zucchini. Zucchini plants have a reputation for being prolific producers, developing so many fruits at a time. The roots of the plant need regular moisture, but besides that, this is a low-maintenance vegetable that will pump out a bumper crop with just a single plant. You can eat both the fruits and blossoms of these delicious giants. Like cucumbers, they prefer warm, moist soil, so the black plastic sheet method works well in this situation, too.

Growing your own vegetables is a noble task that can take very little time and skill. If you’re ready to start on your path to self-sufficiency, give these tasty plants a try this spring.

Spring Home Health Check-Up: Three Areas to Examine Now

A step-by-step home check-up guide to find warning signs and advice on how to repair them

By David Baur, Product Manager, GCP Applied Technologies

Spring is here! Time to get out and enjoy the great outdoors. It is also the ideal time to do a home health check-up, inspecting what winter left behind.

So, what are the three key areas of your home to examine and what do you look for? We have you covered from roof to deck. Follow this step-by-step home check-up guide to find warning signs and advice on how to repair them.

Roof: You’ve probably never thought about it, but your roof has to battle a lot of enemies: ultraviolet rays, rain, wind, snow and ice. But the good news is most new shingle roofs are designed to last about 20 years. Slate roofs and some types of tile and metal roofs can last even longer. The actual life span of your roof is determined by several factors, including environmental conditions, material quality, proper application and regular roof maintenance.

Warning Signs: How do you know when your roof is in trouble? Look for these warning signs:

Outside:

  • Shingles that are warped, blistered, missing or torn
  • Shingles covered in moss or algae, which hold moisture and encourage rot
  • Loose material or wear around chimneys, pipes and other penetrations
  • Overhanging tree branches that could gouge the roof in a strong wind
  • Excessive debris (leaves, dirt, ice, roofing granules) in the gutters or downspouts, which block drainage

Inside:

  • Ceiling spots or leaks
  • Cracked paint
  • Discolored plasterboard
  • Peeling wallpaper
  • Mold, mildew or rot in the walls, ceilings, insulation and electrical systems
  • In the attic, look for signs of water infiltration such as staining, dampness, or mold growing on insulation/sheathing/rafters A poorly ventilated attic that shows signs of moisture, which promotes the roof’s decay. Sufficient attic ventilation can be achieved by installing larger or additional vents

Repairs Needed?

If repairs are needed, don’t skimp on quality to save a few cents. Much of the damage associated with serious storms results from water entering the home when roof coverings or siding is blown off. This is why it is imperative that you have a secondary layer of waterproofing protection underneath the shingles and siding. If proper protection measures are not taken, the resulting leaks are the main cause of interior damage, as well as potential causes of rot and mold. Rot and mold can lead to major structural damage and even potential health problems for homeowners.

Use Underlyaments: FEMA has published recommendations for the use of fully-adhered roofing underlayments, such as Grace Ice & Water Shield®, as an enhanced secondary water barrier for homes. In the event roof coverings are blown off or water manages to get underneath your shingles, these underlayments are the key to preventing water infiltration.

Windows & Doors: Beyond the roof, a home’s doors and windows can also become major leak zones. Even if the windows and doors are well shuttered in a storm, wind-driven rain can be blown into the house at these points, especially if they have not been properly flashed and weatherproofed.

Warning Signs: How do you know when your doors and windows are in trouble? The following are some signs of water damage:

Inside & Outside:

  • Leaks or breaks in seams around window trim and sills
  • Uneven doorframes
  • Discolored plasterboard
  • Peeling wallpaper
  • Chipped or cracked stucco finishes
  • Mold, mildew, or rot in the walls, insulation, and electrical systems
  • Missing, cracked, or blistered paint inside the home

Repairs Needed?

Use Flashing: Flashing is a critical part of your home’s weather barrier system. If not properly selected and installed, wind-driven rain, ice and snow, can leak and quickly cause damage to your home. Flexible flashings such as GCP Applied Technologies’ Vycor® Plus can be used to seal the most vulnerable spots, including windows, doors, corner boards, and other non-roof detail areas. It is designed to work in severe winter climates, milder climates, and in coastal areas where wind driven rain is common.

Deck: Last but not least, check the deck.A deck is a wonderful way to enjoy the outdoors in the warmer weather. But, if your deck is not protected against the extreme weather, it can deteriorate and become unsafe. Decks, fences and other wood products should be routinely weatherproofed and cleaned to maximize their useful life. Weather combined with the treatment chemicals used for today’s pressure treated lumber means that the modern deck must be proper constructed to hold up.

Warning Signs: How do you know when your deck is in trouble? Look for these warning signs:

  • Warped boards
  • Cracked or split boards
  • Debris that is “clogging up” space between deck boards
  • Look under the deck for corroded joist hangers and other connectors
  • Soft wood
  • Mold and mildew

Repairs Needed?

Use a Protective Barrier: Even with today’s treated and high-tech decking products–which look great and last and last–preventing joist rot and decay, as a result of water accumulation under the decking boards, remains a major problem. Vycor Deck Protector® is a unique solution to significantly extend the useful life of decks. Vycor Deck Protector® helps prevent joist rot and decay and decrease the corrosion rate of connectors and fasteners.

By inspecting these three areas of your home and correcting any damage with the best materials, you will ensure your home will live longer. Not to mention your wallet will be happy too! Now, put on those shades and head out to enjoy the spring & summer activities with peace of mind!

David Baur is Product Manager at GCP Applied Technologies, formerly known as Grace Construction Products. He has step by step tips for homeowners, contractors and builders on building homes for extreme weather.

Ask Before Buying a Smart Home

When you find the perfect smart home for you, consider these important questions.

Guest post by Jon Snyder

Smart homes are all the rage these days and are quickly becoming a hot commodity. A recent survey found that 65 percent of buyers would pay extra for houses with smart features – that is, anything in the home that connects to the internet. Smart features include connected security systems, HVAC systems, lighting, thermostats, door locks and eco-friendly appliances—all of which can be controlled remotely from your smartphone or tablet.

While smart homes offer convenience and energy savings, they do come with unique challenges—especially when transferring the home from one family to the next. If you think you’ve found the perfect smart home for you, consider these important questions.

1. What Devices are Actually in the Home?

Talk with the realtor or current homeowners to get a list of devices installed in the home. Don’t rely on a quick walkthrough tour alone, as some IoT-enabled devices are more obvious than others. For example, you’ll be able to spot a smart refrigerator’s touchscreen, but you may not notice the smart lighting solutions. These could encompass not only light bulbs but also adjustable window shades and natural-light detection that dims bulbs as natural light floods the room.

It’s also a good idea to pinpoint what you want out of a smart home, so you can find the one that meets all (or at least most) of your criteria. Additionally, check with the sellers to make sure the manuals for each device are available. They’ll highlight the various features and can quickly clue you in on where each device is and what it has to offer.

2. Are There Warranties for the Connected Devices?

Review the warranties and policies of the home’s IoT gadgets just like you would for any other appliance in the home. You can do this online if you have the serial numbers. (Ask the seller for a list of serial numbers for each device.) That way, you can make sure the devices are actually transferable to new owners so you don’t miss out on important features or security updates.

If everything checks out, remember to update the manufacturer’s pre-set passwords and see if there are any new versions of the device software once you’re all moved in. You can do this on the manufacturer’s website or by accessing the settings menu in the gadget itself.

3. Have the Devices Been Reset to Factory Settings?

Ask if the owner will (or already has) reset the devices back to their default factory settings. Doing so will make it easier for you to create your own account, set up new access protocols and adjust the settings to your liking.

It’s also wise to review the privacy settings for each device, as well as the settings for your own smartphone or tablet, which is what you’ll use to “talk” to your smart home. Keep in mind that all connected devices store and communicate data, so educate yourself as much as possible on how your smart hub works.

It’s up to you to beef up security and limit personal information stored in IoT devices as much as possible. By knowing what you want and asking questions (as many questions as you need to!), you’ll be able to smoothly transition into your new smart home.

 

Jon Snyder is a Product Manager at Esurance, overseeing countrywide design of property insurance products. Jon uses his 25 years of industry experience to write about smart technology and how it will impact homeowners insurance. You can view Esurance’s homeowners policy options on their website.

Your Home’s April Honey Do List

Spring Cleaning is in full swing this month! Find out what to do’s you should be crossing off your list for the month of April.

Even though today is National No Housework Day (no, that’s not a belated April Fool’s Joke), spring cleaning season is in full swing. So, while you have permission to put off your honey do list until tomorrow, here’s a list of to do’s for your home this month.

1. April Showers Bring May Flowers – But, only if you prep the garden today! Lay mulch around shrubs and flower beds before the weeds take over next month. However, resist the urge to plant warm season annuals and vegetables until the last frost date has passed in your area.

2. Fresh Air, Fresh Paint – Planning to paint the exterior of your home, deck or front door? Start preparing exterior surfaces now by scraping and sanding so that when the warmer weather arrives, you’ll be ready to apply the first coat (without a coat on!)

3. Dust Off the Chaise Lounges – The days of lounging in the backyard are almost here! Take some time to clean and repair any outdoor furniture.

4. Get Rid of House Guests – While we all love having family and friends visit over the holidays, other unwelcome house guests can often make themselves at home in our roofs and walls during the winter. Follow this guide to inspect and repair damage from animals who took shelter in your home this winter season.

5. Organize the Garage or Shed – For most of the country, it’s finally time to stash the snow shovels and bust out the lawn mower. While you’re at it, consider Making Your Garage Smarter and More Energy Efficient

6. Spring Clean That Closet – Kick off your spring cleaning project by tackling one of the most cluttered spots of the home. Follow these three steps to a spring miracle: an organized closet.

Selling? Low-Cost Home Improvement Fixes that Make Your Home Shine

When selling a home, even tiny fixes can have a big impact. Fortunately many fixes can be done quickly and with a small budget. Here are 10 of the best low- (or no-) cost home improvement fixes to make your house stand above the competition.

When selling a home, even tiny fixes can have a big impact. Here are 10 of the best low- (or no-) cost home improvement fixes to make your house stand above the competition:

1. Address the Heart of the Home

In real estate, the kitchen is a main selling feature and can be a make or break deal for potential home buyers. If a new kitchen just isn’t in the cards, consider replacing smaller ticket items and de-cluttering. Low- and no-cost fixes for the kitchen include:

  • New cabinet hardware
  • New faucets
  • Installing a new backsplash
  • Storing countertop appliances to create more work space
  • Replacing dark valances with lighter fabric or removing them altogether

2. Update Switch Plate Covers

Switch plate and outlet covers are brittle, and can crack and yellow over time, resulting in a home that, no matter how well updated, still looks dated. New outlets and covers can be replaced in a snap for generally under five dollars, making it one of the lowest cost updates available. Consider flat switches that create a modern, streamlined silhouette and stick to white for a timeless look.

3. Beautify the Bathroom

An updated bathroom comes only second to kitchens in a buyer’s list of must-haves, so showing them a clean and uncluttered bathroom will score points with any potential buyer.

New flooring can give an otherwise tired bathroom a much needed facelift and create a newer looking bathroom overall. Coordinating linens, a new shower curtain, and thoroughly cleaned grout can top off this easy home improvement investment.

4. Address Storage

Storage is always a concern for buyers. Installing low-cost closet organizers to your existing space will increase storage and organization in your home. Add storage baskets to hide clutter and you will have beautiful storage spaces that will make any buyer envious.

5. Deep Clean for a Good Return

If your home contains wall to wall carpeting, clean carpets can make a world of difference to a buyer. Cleaning carpets can easily be completed in a weekend with a rental cleaning machine, and it creates a noticeably clean, odor free environment for buyers to tour.

6. Boost Curb Appeal

Nothing boosts curb appeal like a tidy yard. Trim and edge walkways, weed gardens, and trim shrubs for maximum impact. If you have a porch, consider potted, seasonal plants to bring the look together.

7. Improve the First Impression

As buyers approach your home, first impressions matter. Ensuring your entryway is clean and inviting with something as simple as a new mailbox or updated house numbers will make buyers feel welcome. Clean windows and doors for extra impact.

8. Add a Coat of Paint

Freshening up your living space with neutral colors will invite buyers to imagine their belongings in your home and will cover up any nicks, scratches, or dents your wall incurred over years of daily living.

9. Update Lighting

While not the lowest cost solution on our list, you will find that a new light fixture or two really breathes new life into key living spaces. If your budget is tight, look to kitchen, dining, and living rooms for the most bang for your buck.

10. Add Some Decor Pizzazz

Finally, a fresh look can be completed with nothing more than some colorful fabric. Inexpensive pillows and throws in a coordinating palette through your home will create a unified look that will have buyers hooked.